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Pirates Notebook: The Pursuit of Hanley Pujols

Today marks the start of the international signing period, which means one thing for Pittsburgh Pirates fans: the market is open for Miguel Angel Sano, aka “Hanley Pujols”.

The month of June wasn’t kind to Pirates fans. Nate McLouth was traded early for prospects. Tony Sanchez was taken fourth overall in the draft, despite being ranked 32nd by Baseball America. Then to cap it all off, fan favorite Nyjer Morgan was traded, along with Sean Burnett.

For each of those moves there was a mixed reaction. In the McLouth trade there were some who felt that McLouth may be a big over-rated, especially on defense. Looking at the draft as a whole, the Pirates got a lot of talent in the later rounds, justifying the “reach” for Sanchez. And there are many who feel that Lastings Milledge is better than Nyjer Morgan, while Joel Hanrahan is better than Sean Burnett.

If the Pirates fail to sign Sano, I doubt we’ll see a split reaction. I think the feeling amongst Pirates fans will be overwhelming anger if the Pirates fail to sign Sano.

I’m not going to suggest that this is the same management group that passed up on Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft. However, this move could be a move that helps make up for the selection of Daniel Moskos over Wieters. Sano gets the nickname “Hanley Pujols” because he’s been said to have the potential of Albert Pujols in a Hanley Ramirez body. With a farm system that’s on the mend, the Pirates can’t afford to pass up a talent like this.

In short: Miguel Sano is this management group’s Matt Wieters. And if you thought the Wieters fiasco drove Pirates fans over the edge, imagine this perfect storm:

-The Pirates are in the middle of what will probably be their record setting 17th losing season in a row
-They just traded their best hitter in McLouth, who was considered to be a part of the “core” at the start of the year
-They traded a very popular player in Nyjer Morgan, and a player who was very reliable in certain regards
-They passed over a lot of top prospects (albeit in a weak draft) to take a “signability” pick in the first round of the draft

Most importantly, we’ve been hearing all along that the Pirates are one of the top contenders for Sano, and will probably be able to use their personal relationship with him to get a deal done.

Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll get an immediate result. While the Pirates (or any other team) can sign Sano, MLB has yet to clear Sano from their investigation on his age (and the investigation is taking a long time). Until he is cleared, I don’t believe we will see any teams sign him (if he is found to be lying about his age, not only does he lose value, but he faces a year-long suspension).

One thing is for sure: if the Pirates land Sano, it will make many Pirates fans forget the events in the month of June. If they don’t land Sano, then it could be the Matt Wieters situation all over again.

The MVP Tracker

The MVP Tracker is updated through the 6/30 win. Here are the big impacts from the 7/1 loss:

1. Freddy Sanchez: -.164 WPA
2. Jack Wilson: -.151
3. Ramon Vazquez: -.104
4. Garrett Jones: -.103
5. Adam LaRoche: -.067

Prospect Watch

I made a lot of changes to the Prospect Tracker today. I added the following players:

-Starling Marte
-Gift Ngoepe
-Wes Freeman
-Ramon Cabrera
-Jorge Bishop
-Jonathan Barrios
-Exicardo Cayonez
-Ronald Uviedo

Starting tomorrow I’m going to make the Prospect Watch a separate post from the Notebook, especially now that I have over 20 prospects on the tracker.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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